One of my favorite things to talk about is the adoption of our son. What I love most about it is that it did not happen the way you would see it in a movie or read about in a book. It unfolded with uncertainty at every step, and as much as my mind told me to proceed with this decision cautiously, I did the opposite. 

During the actual legal process, we encountered many bumps in the road. For example, our fingerprints for our background screening were lost. Still to this day, I am not sure how that happened. We also had a hard time finding a social worker to conduct our home study; every phone call we made from a referral led to a dead end. Of course, we had a lawyer, but there were certain tasks that we were responsible for and it felt like nothing was going smoothly. 

Despite the difficulties, it never swayed our decision. We knew he was supposed to be our son. In hindsight, all of those hiccups seem so irrelevant now. It is funny how things can go from catastrophic to no big deal because, in the end, I get to be the mother to the most amazing kid.   

I understand that it is important to acknowledge the voice of the biological mother when making this decision, and I would like to preface that the experiences I’ll be sharing are from my perspective alone. I have to say that through every obstacle we faced during the adoption process, I felt like the most blessed human being in the world. Because of my faith, I believe that this was my pre-ordained destiny. I can not fully explain how many things have come full circle and just make sense now. Even things I wrote in a journal as a teenager that I do not remember writing have found their way to be true now. 

The Phone Call

On one of my very scenic drives to work in Napa Valley, I received a phone call from an aunt that introduced me to the idea of possibly adopting another family member’s unborn child due to incarceration. It was a very nonchalant conversation, but for some reason, I instantly said yes without the consultation of my husband. I remember replaying the conversation in my head and I could not believe that I agreed to something so huge without much thought. I placed some blame on the memorizing euphoric view of the valley during harvest season. This is something that I would never recommend to someone. Adoption is a life-changing decision not just for the potential parents, but for the child too. It deserves time, the energy of research, and soul searching—all of which I did after that impulsive yes. 

My husband and I had been together for about ten years at that time, but we had only been married for a year. We discussed children numerous times, and it was always a no. We both agreed that having children was not what we wanted. At that time, I was also very focused on my career. So, it did not phase me much when I found out that I was not able to birth children. I was very indifferent and never felt that sense of loss. 

Sparing you the details of the marital conflicts my decision caused, I decided to just put a pin in it and see what happened. Nothing was set in stone, it was still just an idea, and the baby was a few months away. I am notorious for abusing the phrase I will cross that bridge when I get there. As some time passed, it began to lean more on the side of yes than maybe.  Unfortunately, my impulsive decision became increasingly difficult to manage emotions when we found out that my son’s biological mother had used narcotics while pregnant. During a previous conversation with her, she had assured me that she did not and that she was very careful during pregnancy, all of which was not true. When I learned the truth, I was initially mad; I felt betrayed and stupid for believing her. It took me a long time to realize that she was probably scared and embarrassed and just wanted to make sure that this little baby found a safe place to be raised and loved. I had to lay my ego aside and exercise the compassion that I always said I believed to be necessary for my faith. I had to practice what I preached. 

Kinship Adoption

My son is biologically my second cousin. There are an estimated 2 million children in the United States adopted by family members; numerous studies have concluded that kinship adoption can have a positive effect on the child. Kinship adoption can provide stability and reduce the trauma of separation. Some studies state it can also promote good mental health, result in fewer behavioral problems, and help maintain cultural traditions. 

One of the most challenging things we encountered was establishing boundaries with family members. When my son was a baby, it was easy. He did not understand what was going on and what words were being said. As he got older, I realized the things I ignored in the past had to be addressed. To be completely transparent, I pulled a disappearing act until I figured out what we were comfortable with and how I could communicate it in a loving, positive way. At this time, we do not feel it is in the best interest of our son to be in contact with his biological mother: However, we are open to the idea in the future if circumstances change. There is not a concrete guideline for adoption; every family has to learn what works best for them. 

A Decision I’m Forever Grateful For

I will always be grateful for the gift of motherhood. I always say he is the best thing I never knew I wanted. I did not ever think that I could love and bond with someone the way I do with my son, and oddly enough we are so similar in so many ways. He has my sense of humor and quick wit. My dad likes to laugh and say I have finally met my match. He outsmarts me regularly and has the comedic timing of a genius. He can set me up to walk into a joke like no one else can. I feel like we have the best of both worlds from the nature versus nurture theory. I do not regret my impulsive decision, and he is worth everything I risked to be a part of his life, and I’m not the only adoptive parent who feels that way

“A child born to another woman calls me mom. The depth of the tragedy and the magnitude of the privilege are not lost on me.”

Jody Landers